If you are a parent, you’ve probably seen your child get angry at least once. Okay, let’s be brutally honest. Your child gets angry periodically. Or frequently. Or seems angry all of the time. While the Bible makes it clear anger is not a sin, it also counsels Christians to “not sin in our anger” and to “not let the sun go down on our anger”.
The problem is that anger can have many causes. In fact anger itself is a secondary emotion. There are many reasons your child could be getting angry. While I am not a therapist, spiritually speaking helping a child learn to manage his or her anger in godly ways is a bit easier if you can teach them to look for the root cause of their anger.
Root causes are important, because those are the real issues that must be addressed somehow. If your child is getting angry because he is overtired, for example, teaching him to get plenty of rest and to be more vigilant when tired can help. If she is angry every time her hormones fluctuate, helping her find godly coping habits to replace lashing out in anger can make it easier for her to recognize critical time periods and prepare accordingly to avoid angry outbursts.
Since each angry episode can have a different root cause, it’s important to teach your kids to stop the second they feel their tempers beginning to rise and attempt to identify the root cause. Are there patterns that indicate reoccurring issues? Is it something they can address immediately? Will they need your help over a period of time to tackle the real issue? What are some healthy, godly things they can do right then to address the core problem and avoid getting truly angry?
So what are some of the real emotions and issues underlying an angry outburst? Here’s a partial list: anxiety, frustrated, shock, abandoned, shame, betrayal, manipulated, nervous, lonely, tired, hungry, hormones, confused, embarrassed, violated, foolish, defeated, rejected, excluded, disrespected, overwhelmed, disappointed, entitled, deceived, pressured, trapped, sad, offended, unappreciated, unloved, guilty, discontented, unheard, misunderstood.
It’s not always easy identifying the root cause of an angry outburst – especially for children with limited vocabularies or poor metacognition skills (being aware of one’s own thought processes). It’s an important skill to teach your kids. Then help them learn ways to handle those root emotions and issues before they even become angry. If you can succeed, it will be a lot easier for them to avoid sinning in their anger and to resolve their anger in a timely and godly way.